A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit Literature

A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit Literature

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  • Book Name A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit Literature
  • Author Gaurinath Sastri
  • Language, Pages English, 230 Pgs.
  • Upload Date 2023 / 05 / 15
  • ISBN 9788120801752, 812080175X
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A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit Literature
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IT was in the seventeenth century that the European people, particularly missionaries and travellers, came to know of the Indian languages. In A.D. 1651 Abraham Roger published a Portuguese translation of Bhartrhari's poems. In A.D. 1699 the Jesuit Father Johann Ernst Hanxleden came to India and after getting himself acquainted with the Sanskrit language wrote the first Sanskrit grammar in a European language. The book, however, was not printed but was consulted by Fra Paolino de St Bartholomes who wrote two Sanskrit grammars besides a number of important works. It was during the administration of Warren Hastings that the work called Vivadarnavasetu was compiled. Under the title A Code of Gentoo Law, it was published in English in A.D. 1776. Nine years later, the Bhagavadgita was translated into English by Charles Wilkins who also rendered into English the Hitopadesa and the Sakuntala episode of the Mahabharata. It was, however, Sir William Jones who did most to arouse the interest of Europeans in Indian literature. In A.D. 1789 he published his English translation of Kalidasa's Sakuntala. The English translation of Kalidasa's immortal drama was followed by a German translation by Georg Forster in A.D. 1791 whiCh, attracted the attention of men like Herder and Goethe. It was again through the enthusiasm of Jones that the Rtusamhara of Kalidasa was published in the original text in A.D: 1792. A third work of Jones was the translation of the Manusmrti, the most important legal literature. of ancient India. The work of Jones was followed up by Henry Thomas Colebrooke who published A Digest of -Hindu Law on Contracts and Successions based on a composition in Sanskrit by orthodox Indian scholars. He also edited a number of Sanskrit works including the Amarakosa, the Act5dhydvi, the Hitopadesa and the Kiratarjuniya. Another Englishman who studied Sanskrit in India was Alexander Hamilton who, while returning to England in A.D. 1802, was imprisoned with other Englishmen at Paris under orders of Napoleon Bonaparte. During the period of his imprisonment Hamilton trained up a band of European scholars who took to the study 'of Sanskrit with earnest zeal. This is commonly referred to as the 'Discovery of Sanskrit' in the West. One of Hamilton's most distinguished students was the great German scholar and poet Friedrich Schlegel, who wrote that epoch-making work On the Language • and Wisdom of the Indians. This work introduced for the first time the comparative and the historical method. It also contained translations in German of many passages from the Ramayana, the Bhagavadgita, the Manusmrti and other early works. Friedrich Schlegel's brother August Wilhelm von Schlegel, a student of Professor A. L. Chezy, the first French scholar in Sanskrit, not only contributed much to the study of Comparative Philology but also helped the study of Sanskrit by editing texts and writing translations. One of Schlegel's students was Christian Lassen who was deeply interested in Indian culture. The science of Comparative Philology was founded by Franz Bopp, a student of Professor Chezy and contemporary of August Wilhelm. Bopp also rendered great service to the investigation of Sanskrit literature by incorporating in his work Conjugations-system, translations from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. His Sanskrit Grammars considerably furthered the study of Sanskrit in Germany. The work of Bopp in the domain of Comparative Philology was developed in a most comprehensive manner by Wilhelm von Humboldt whose interest in the philosophical works of the Indians was of an abiding character. Another noted German, Friedrich Ruckert, was also highly interested in Indian poetry. The Latin translations of the Upanisads in the beginning of the nineteenth century inspired German philosophers. Schelling, Kant, Schiller, and Schopenhauer were highly charmed • to discover 'the production of the highest human wisdom' The actual investigation of Vedic literature was first. undertaken by Friedrich Rosen in A.D. 1838 and was subsequently continued by a band of illustrious students of the great French orientalist Eugene Burnouf, including Rudolph Roth and F. Max Willer, who brought out his famous editio princeps of the 13gveda with the commentary of Sayana in the years 1849-75. One of Roth's distinguished students was H. Grassmann who published a complete translation of the 1gveda. It was during this period that Horace Hayman Wilson who came to Calcutta represented the orthodox interpretation of the Rgveda by translating it on the lines of Sayana's commentary. Similar work was done by Alfred Ludwig, who is looked upon as a forerunner of R. Pischel, and K. F. Geldner, the joint authors of Vedic Studies. The name of Theodor Aufrecht is also associated with Vedic investigations.



The history of Sanskrit Literature is by itself a fascinating subject in which not only students of language but also the intelligentsia in general finds an abiding interest. This prompted me to undertake the first edition of the book under the title, An Introduction to Classical Sanskrit, in a short compass in 1943. It is indeed a matter of gratification to me that the edition was exhausted in a rather short time, and there has been a persistent demand for a new edition of it. But I have to admit that due to forces beyond my control it could not be brought out earlier. The present edition, however, is not just a reprint of the former; much new matter has been put into it and the whole book has been thoroughly rev‘ and brought up-to—date. The scope of the book has also been suitably widened which will be evident from its rechristening A Concise History of Sanskrit Literature. I believe it will satisfy its users much more than its predecessor.


In preparing this edition Dr. Radha Govinda Basak, M.A., Dr. Benoy Chandra Sen, M.A.,P.R.S., and a former pupil of mine, Shri Kali Kumar Dutta Sastri, M.A., Kavya-Sankhyatirtha have rendered me much help, especially by drawing my attention to some of the omissions that crept in the first edition of the book. I am also much indebted to my colleagues Dr. Govindagopal Mukherjee, M.A., Sankhyatirtha, Dr. Sisir Kumar Mitra, M.A., LL.B., and also to my former pupils Shri Kalidasa Bhattacharyya, M.A., Shri Gopikamohnn Bhattacharyya, M.A., and Shri Birnal Krishna Motilal, M.A. for rendering me invaluable assistance in preparing the present edition.


Contents and Sample Pages


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